WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth began talking to reporters from the bowels of RFK Stadium on Sunday, he repeatedly used one word: huge.
Sure, D.C. United may be in last place in the Eastern Conference standings. But for the Union to go on the road and pick up their first-ever win at RFK Stadium against perhaps their biggest rival, well, that was certainly a huge early-season boost.
As always, let’s take a closer look at the game and what lies ahead in this week’s “Inside Doop.”
Three thoughts from Sunday’s game
1. Jack McInerney doesn’t seem to mind the national spotlight, does he? As the 20-year-old continues to gain more and more attention from around the country, he also continues to score and score. In Philly’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, McInerney netted two first-half goals -– both with his left foot –- to take over sole possession of first place in the MLS scoring race. And that performance helped him become the MLS Player of the Week, the first time in two seasons a Union player has nabbed that award. There’s a good chance, of course, that McInerney’s blistering scoring pace will fall off –- but it won’t be because the supremely confident and gifted 20-year-old is overwhelmed by the increasingly harsh glare of the spotlight. If anything, he seems to relish it.
2. Almost lost in McInerney’s big evening was the performance of his partner up top, Conor Casey. Philly’s veteran forward had his second straight impressive game, scoring his second goal as a member of the Union and adding an assist to help Philly pick up its first three-goal effort of the season. A big, cagey guy who can hold the ball up like Casey seems to be a perfect partner for McInerney, who has a tremendous ability to find space and attack the ball in the box. Could this turn out to the best striker pairing the Union have ever had?
3. Seeing as how reeling D.C. United managed to double their scoring output from the entire season with their two goals, the Union’s backline obviously didn’t have one of their best games. Nevertheless, fullbacks Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis were still instrumental in the win, as Williams played a big role in two of the team’s goals and Gaddis made some key defensive stops with Philly clinging to a one-goal lead in the second half. Williams’ long throw-ins have been especially effective this season –- and it’s a weapon few other teams can match.
Three questions for the week ahead
1. The Union have enjoyed very good road success this season, scoring seven of their 10 goals away from PPL Park and earning seven out of a possible 12 points. Will they be able to keep that going this Saturday against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium? The Revs will certainly be inspired playing in what will be their first home match since the tragic events in Boston.
2. With eight starting positions pretty much set in stone –- goalie Zac MacMath, the back four of Williams, Gaddis and center backs Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke, defensive midfielder Brian Carroll, and Casey and McInerney up top –- it seems like there are at least six players battling for three starting midfield spots. Against D.C. United, Danny Cruz, Keon Daniel and Michael Farfan all got the start –- and, given their performances and Hackworth’s preferences, those three players will probably have a leg up to start again vs. New England on Saturday. But that leaves some really good players like Sébastien Le Toux, Gabriel Farfan and Kléberson, the team’s new Designated Player, all on the bench –- not to mention fan favorite Roger Torres and the always-steady Michael Lahoud. With everyone healthy, Hackworth’s midfield decisions are certainly something to watch every week.
3. Le Toux, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, was probably the most glaring omission from the field on Sunday. It marked the first time as a member of the Union that the popular Frenchman did not play at all while healthy. And with Casey and McInerney thriving together and the midfield already crowded, you have to wonder where Le Toux fits on this team right now.
Stat of the week
Current MLS Golden Boot leader McInerney played 201 total minutes in Peter Nowak’s last 22 regular-season games as manager. Since Hackworth took over for Nowak, McInerney has started 24 of the team’s last 30 games and scored 14 goals during that stretch.
Quote of the week
“If you would have told me I would have had two left-footed goals, I would have called you a liar. It just comes along with the confidence I have right now.” – McInerney
Player of the week
McInerney was named the MLS Player of the Week, so naturally he gets the honor here. Perhaps the most impressive part of his two-goal effort was that he scored both with his left foot – which, as you can see from above, surprised even him.